Benefits of Membership
Please see our weekly newsletter collection below. Our own staff and members contribute bits and bytes of interesting news and articles. They say that futurists make funny historians but we do our best to bridge that divide by illustrating our past themes and speakers as they develop and evolve. We hope that you enjoy reading these communications as much as we enjoy creating them for you. And if you have any news to share, please contact any member of our staff.
What kind of intelligence is required to win at poker? Up till last year, human intelligence. Then a CMU bot named Libratus beat four top players at heads-up no-limit Texas hold’em. Libratus’s co-creator, Noam Brown, will join us at our next meeting, Intelligence, Natural and Artificial, June 11–12, in Brooklyn, N.Y. (registration, agenda) to talk about programming an imperfect-information game, and possible applications in negotiation and marketing.
Ah, electromagnetism. Of course a flow of salty seawater can be construed as a current, and a current generates a magnetic field, hence ocean tides contribute to the planet’s magnetism. A cluster of European Space Agency satellites, dubbed “Swarm,” are generating some wonderful visualizations. Swarm also provided confirmation of a new form of northern lights, dubbed Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (whose acronym Steven Cherry called “stupid”). (Scott Burleigh, Philadelphia, Apr 2006)
Encryption works best when it’s invisible to end users. So maybe it’s an important step that the W3C has moved Web Authentication (WebAuthn) one step closer to Proposed Recommendation status. WebAuthn would replace passwords, using public key credentials and hardware authentication devices, such as YubiKeys.
Speaking of security, does your office have a locked safe? Without it, you can’t participate in Magic Leap’s recent shipment of units of its Magic Leap One to selected software developers. It also released a set of developer tools. (Kyle Roche, San Francisco, Dec 2017; Nolan Bushnell, San Francisco, Dec 2016; Mark Skwarek, San Francisco, Dec 2016; Jeri Ellsworth, San Francisco, Dec 2013)
The field of artificial intelligence is one that desperately needs nuanced public discussion. Yet despite featuring “dozens of interviews with some of the world's keenest minds” (Los Angeles Times), Do You Trust This Computer? takes viewers on “a whistle-stop tour of various AI-related topics” (The Verge). Judge for yourself: The film streams for free until Sunday.
Alex Halderman’s (Washington, D.C., Sep 2016) video, “I Hacked an Election. So Can the Russians,” is going viral.
Speaking of Russia, the Facebook–Senate hearings this week didn’t go well for either side. Zuckerberg’s testimony didn’t score high marks from informed observers, as documented in articles like “The five most dishonest answers Mark Zuckerberg gave to Congress”; most of the problems were signaled to us last month by Roger McNamee and Jon Taplin in their “Conversation About Devices, Addiction, Children, and Happiness” (Marina del Rey, Mar 2018). Nor did Zuck look like he was having fun. as Trevor Noah of the “The Daily Show” noted after the first day, “Zuckerberg has already experienced the worst punishment of all: he had to spend four hours explaining Facebook to senior citizens.”
Is there a limit to Bell’s Law (Gordon Bell, McLean, Va., Nov 1995), at least as far as apps are concerned? Instagram has joined Slack, eBay, Amazon, Google Maps, and Whole Foods in abandoning its Apple Watch app.
Rapt Studio’s mobile dental clinic is news for anyone who hasn’t see the 1989 movie, Eversmile NJ. When considering where to park that mobile clinic, Rapt could consult UrbanFootprint, a set of urban planning tools newly public after 30 years of stealth. (Zabe Bent, McLean, Sep 2017; Eric Kuhne, London, Jul 2010; Chris Alexander, San Diego, Nov 2002)
Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles “has lost 98 percent of its land since 1955. Its 99 remaining residents have been dubbed ‘America’s first climate refugees’”—the first of as many as 13 million this century. (Michael Golay, San Francisco, Dec 2017; Michael Mastrandrea and Noah Diffenbaugh, San Francisco, Dec 2014)
In the never-ending debate between nature and nurture, perhaps score a few points for nature. A pair of UK-based researchers claim new genetic studies show intelligence is “highly heritable and predicts important educational, occupational, and health outcomes better than any other trait.” (Note however that one of them has been beating this drum since the 1990s.) The new research is, of course, written up in Nature. As flawed and limited as the notion of IQ is, researchers are nonetheless obsessed with it, going as far as to estimate IQ scores for every U.S. President. (Alan Kay, Washington, D.C., May 2009; Doug Engelbart, Phoenix, Oct 1999)
“A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” ”
— Mark Zuckerberg in 2011